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3 Reasons To Bring Your Mom to DWC

If you or a loved one is struggling to master technology, there are classes at the Digital Workshop Center that can help. Ask your doctor if DWC is right for you.

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Why You Should Care About Google Penguin 2.0

Lions may rule the jungle, but one special penguin sets the new rules for getting your website out of the weeds. On May 22, Google un-caged its Penguin 2.0 update, tweaking the rule set for the mega search engine’s algorithms. What does that mean? Google revamped its search engine optimization (SEO) rules for how it evaluates Web content so it can better identify web spam from great content. So, if you want your website to climb Google’s search engine result rankings, you’ll do your best to march in line with Penguin 2.0’s criteria. SEO is highly useful for every single website, be it a personal blog, portfolio, business website or otherwise. Terminology and how SEO works can be a lot to take on. For those of you unfamiliar with SEO, check out these blog posts to learn the basics: Spiders are Your Friends: An Introduction to SEO Easy Traffic-Building Tips for Your Website Content Buoyancy: A Lesson in Keyword Density Trust us, you’ll want to read these before reading the rest of this blog. A More Social Penguin One of the tried-and-true techniques for garnering a better search engine page ranking (SERP) is creating organic inbound links–meaning that the more sites that link to your website, the better. Penguin 2.0 leans even more on this idea, but gives you bonus points for social media interaction. In other words, the more times your links are shared, clicked on or otherwise referred to on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and other popular social networks, the better. Including links to your content on your own social network profiles is a must, but you’ll really see search engine ranks sky rocket when others link to content Content: The King Penguin At the heart of it all, Google wants you to create “useful” content for your target audience. Blogs and Web articles are great; white papers, eBooks and other niche digital content will take you even farther. This feeds into the idea of enticing your audience to share your content. Google believes that truly original, valuable content is more likely to be linked to by your readers. The flipside to the whole linking concept is that some nasty websites try to cheat by manifesting its own linking system or paying for inbound links. Well, Penguin 2.0 cracks down on this more than ever. If a website includes links that don’t relate to the subject matter (based on keywords within the content) or the third-party sites that link to seemingly unrelated content, Penguin 2.0 will better identify cheaters. A Well-Read Creature Penguin 2.0 knows the difference between “good” and “bad” Web content. In Google’s eyes, good content caters 100% to the reader. The writing should have a specific focus, highlighted by keywords. Keywords don’t blaze a golden trail to extra page views like they used to, but you should focus on using keywords in every piece of content you put out there nonetheless. The three keys to keywords are to use your primary keyword early in your content, mix up keyword phrasings or throw in some synonyms and to use keywords in a tasteful manner. In other words, don’t overdo keywords to the point that sentences and paragraphs become choppy and incoherent. Keep on Marchin’ So, what’s the lesson in all this? Google’s algorithm is to make Web content less about jamming keywords and hyperlinks on a page and more about writing great content for the end user: your readers. It will only be a matter of time before Google releases a new update to its SEO algorithms, but Penguin 2.0 gets us ever closer to...

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Using Google Apps for Your Small Business

For many of us, the advent of the cloud has given us a convenient location to store files that we may need to access on the go. However, the cloud is much more than storing grocery lists and Christmas ideas on Dropbox and Evernote. The cloud has given businesses the means to access all of their data and workflow from anywhere, at anytime, from any Internet connection. While this may mean that you can never truly leave your work at work anymore, it has produced quantum leaps in employee collaboration, coordination, and productivity. This week, we will focus on the corporate giant that truly has small businesses in mind at all times, Google. Google is no longer just your favorite search engine – it should be your go-to destination for small business IT solutions. Gmail   Many of you may already be familiar with Google’s fantastic webmail client, Gmail. However, if you are not also using it for your small business, you need to be. Gmail’s largest asset is that it functions in the cloud. This means that you do not have download or sync your messages to various locations. The inbox will look the same from any location that you access it from. Gmail’s defining difference is that it “threads” conversations. This means that emails with the same or similar subjects are grouped together. This allows the user to see all of the messages sent and received on a particular topic in one place. Every time a new message is received, Gmail “bumps” the entire thread to the top of the inbox, streamlining multi-party conversations by reducing the amount of time a user has to search in their mailbox for past messages. If you do have the need to search for an old email however, Gmail’s built in search browser does the trick nicely. It quickly searches the subject and body of any email that is still being stored on the cloud. Gmail also has some useful setting that may be of value for your business: Signature: Allows you to modify and store your email signature in the same manner Outlook would Forgotten Attachment Detector: Notifies you if you have mentioned an attachment in your email but did not add one. Undo Send: We’ve all sent emails to the wrong person or made a grievous typo that we wish we could take back. This feature gives a few additional seconds to take that email back. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides While not as refined and stable as its big brother (Microsoft Office), Google’s own office suite of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides does provide a viable (if not better) business alternative. What Google’s suite lacks in elegance, it makes up for with online storage, shareability, and collaboration options. In the world of small business, it is rarely possible for everyone to be present in the office at all times. With Google Docs, employees can collaborate real-time on a document anywhere that has an Internet connection. If you do not want everyone to have the ability to edit the document, you can set permissions that allow certain users to view and edit. You may also edit these settings to allow people outside of your office to view and edit if you wish to share with them. Calendar If you are like me, you can never turn down any tool that helps you stay organized. Google’s Calendar feature can do just that.  In Google Calendar, you can set up sharing and permissions in which you can add other employee’s calendars to your own and they may do the same. This...

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Cloud Storage: Dropbox vs. Google Drive

The cloud. Five years ago, the concept seemed far-fetched and insignificant. Who would want or need Internet data storage when we already had our nifty USB sticks? They held gigabytes of data while also providing a unique opportunity to accessorize. With the innovation of smartphones and tablets, the need for USB memory solutions began to decline, and the cloud had its opening. Enter Dropbox. For as long as cloud storage has been viable, Dropbox has been in the forefront. However, challengers are constantly emerging to contend for the cloud storage title and none have been more fit for the challenge than the recently introduced Google Drive. So which one is better – Dropbox or Google Drive? Let’s take a closer look. Part I: Desktop Interface Dropbox and Google Drive are both quite similar in their desktop applications. Installation is a breeze for both programs. After downloading and installing the program, the icons for the desktop interface will appear in your toolbar. The Google Drive icon is the one on the farthest left. It resembles a modified Google Chrome icon. The Dropbox icon is directly to the right and it appears as an open box. The screenshot above displays the desktop icons for both Dropbox and Google Drive on a Mac home screen. If you are using a Windows operating system, these icons would be on your Start Up menu on the bottom right-hand section of your screen. Right-clicking these icons shows that the two menus are nearly identical.                 From these menus, the “Open Google Drive folder” and the “Open Dropbox Folder” are perhaps the most important. Upon opening them, you will again notice the similarities between the two. Both menus feature your documents on the left-hand pane and a preview on the right. (Display may vary, depending on your operating system.) Uploading documents to either your Google Drive or Dropbox space is a breeze from these screens. Simply drag or copy and paste the document you wish to put on the cloud, and within moments it will be uploaded and available for access anywhere. Both applications also offer solutions for uploads that are larger than just documents. For example, lets say that you are looking for an easy way to access backup files for your computer. Simply create a folder in Google Drive or Dropbox for this, and then have your PC or Mac save the backups to this folder. Voila, instant backup in the cloud that allows you access to your backup anywhere you have a connection. The same type of saving can be done with videos or music files so that you are not eating up a ton of space on your hard drive. Forewarning: when trying to access these larger folders on another computer, they will have to take some time to download. Do not expect them to stream instantly, especially video. Finally, perhaps the best feature of these desktop interfaces is that they are not limited to one computer. This means that you can download this desktop application on your home desktop, your laptop, work computers, and school computers and have access to every file that is stored in your Drive or Dropbox account. Very convenient! Part II: Online Interface There are times when the convenient desktop interface isn’t available, however. For example, certain workplace environments are quite strict on what is allowed to be downloaded onto their computers, you are travelling without a laptop, or you are a Drive user that has somehow gotten stuck with a Linux computer (Google Drive is not currently supported on Linux). For...

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Search Engine Optimization a Must

[This column originally appeared in The Coloradoan on 6/29/12] If your business has a website, it’s important to get it atop the results for search engines such as Google and Bing. In fact, 94 percent of shoppers research a product online before making a web purchase, including to the Complete Shopper Intelligence Study. Shoppers overwhelmingly turn to search engines for information, with 61 percent of shoppers say they often or always use a search engine while researching a future online purchase. With more business being conducted online, search engine optimization, or SEO, is becoming vital to business success. SEO involves a series of actions taken in the design of your website to ensure it will rank atop search engine results. While there isn’t one magic way to make this happen, there are many guidelines you can follow to improve your ranking. They include optimizing your website title, keywords, description and searchable text. When a user types keywords into a search engine, all four of these areas are checked for relevancy and your results are returned based on any hits that are found. The more relevant your site is, the higher your rank will be in a search engine. Of course, there are many other factors in your website’s design that will affect your ranking. The most common of these would be your attempts to try and trick a search engine by repeating keywords or searchable content unnecessarily. All search engines out there today are extremely intelligent. They can tell the difference between good and bad SEO practices on your website. So do yourself a favor, and stick to the basic guidelines of SEO. You will actually be rewarded by search engines if you do so. The topic of SEO is lengthy but important, and one that all businesses need to address. Remember, if someone is using a search engine to find what he or she needs, and it’s something you provide, you need to make sure your website can be found easily. Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or stu@...

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